It’s Time to Work

Toni Morrison, Haruki Murakami, VS Naipual

I really can’t allow the romantic visions of writing influence or prevent my work. For some reason I have fallen deeply in love with writing by pen.

I usually have an ink pen and write on a blank paper or a graph paper the size of A4. My favorite authors have done so in the past, and for me, it improves my prose a little bit. Just the process of transposing the words into the computer is an editing process. You can especially find missing articles before countable nouns, a common error for me because they are not the content-word in the sentence. The American author Ernest Hemingway said the same thing in his interview with The Paris Review. Yet what has gotten me to commit to this new writing process is merely work; I have to produce more of it.

As I am indulging in satire, writing for an online magazine, I have noticed there is a lot of competition that floods the internet. Bulk is first key to garnering readers. Yet the content and the voice are the lines that continue pulling them in. A prime example would be Buzzfeed.com in where a handful of contributors are posting on the internet material regardless of the value of the content. On April 23, 2014 David Stopera collected twenty-eight pictures of triangles that would prove the existence of the cult illuminati, in his article “28 Shocking Pictures that Prove that The Illuminati is All Around Us,” a poor attempt to satirize the cult and how it affects the world, or perhaps Beyonce when she makes a triangle during her performance at the Super Bowl that could equally represent her husbands’ Rockafella brand. Upworthy steals other people’s videos and frames them neatly in their web design, labeling them as a hyperbolic misnomer like “A cop asks if she has a weapon. He doesn’t like her quick response.” That is actually on the landing page of their website. Words aren’t handled with any kind of care on these websites. If I could find the balance between the shape of prose, the lyrics and mass output, then Brevspread could be a force on the internet.

The shape of a sentence doesn’t change tremendously compared to when it is written by hand. Supreme authors like Toni Morrison, Iris Murdoch, Mario Vargas LLosa, Haruki Murakami and Thomas Mann have a direct connection with their words as they write by hand. I especially feel this with Morrison, who said in the Paris Review that she wrote with a pencil. Listen to the undulating flow of her voice in her 1993 Nobel Prize speech:

“Once upon a time there was an old woman. Blind but wise.” Or was it an old man? A guru, perhaps. Or a griot soothing restless children. I have heard this story, or one exactly like it, in the lore of several cultures.

“Once upon a time there was an old woman. Blind. Wise.”

She breaks the traditional standard of prose as she decides not to add a predicate in the third sentence. But this pace of writing is natural in spoken word. Murakami and British-Indian writer V.S. Naipal have a similar slow but steady pace of prose. Compared to these authors, excellent writers who type out their works have a rather neat, consistent, grammatical prose. A good example would be the opening paragraph in Philip Roth’s The American Pastoral.

The swede. During the war years, when I was still a grade school boy, this was a magical name in our Newark neighborhood, even to adults just a generation removed from the city’s old Prince Street ghetto and not yet so flawlessly Americanized as to be bowled over by the prowess of a high school athlete.

According to the Benjamin Taylor in his interview with Roth, just after Roth was awarded the Man Booker International Prize in 2011, Roth divulges his work process in where he writes a page a day on the computer; by the end of the year you should have a completed a book.

There are other masterful writers who established their careers typing on a computer or a type writer. Recently I have revisited authors like Jose Saramago and Gabriel Garcia Marquez who have written most of their works on the computer, diligently, under a schedule, with sheer discipline. Examine a writer like Marquez in The Memories of My Melancholy Whores. Within his tempered sentences, he still weaves some whimsy in there:

The year I turned ninety, I wanted to give myself the gift of wild love with an adolescent virgin. I thought of Rosa Cabarcas, the owner of an illicit house who would inform her good clients when she had a new girl available. I never succumbed to that or to any of her many other lewd temptations, but she did not believe in the purity of my principles.

I suspect it’s an accumulation of diction and the heart to put together the most romantic phrase in every sentence. Compare “illicit house” to perhaps “brothel.” “House” draws more sentimentality than the petrified objective term like “brothel,” which describes the place more accurately.

I’m sure there many exceptions to the examples displayed above. I’m just merely musing over the works that I have had the honor of learning from. I wish I could continue writing in pen, pencil, or by hand, but rather get into the habit or producing complete works than not having any at all, a horrific pursuit for my editor, who thinks the internet is saturated with unwarranted works a la Buzzworthy.com.



John Tang

John Tang writes essays and fiction, and creates RPGs. He’s also the production manager for Brev Spread. You can reach him at Queries@brevspread.com

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